McConnell joins Frank in championing Feeding Our Future campaign

Rams Against Hunger

Incoming CSU President Joyce McConnell and outgoing President Tony Frank with student Clarissa Escobar at the Feeding Our Future kickoff event at the Food Bank for Larimer County on Friday, June 28. Photos by Joe Mendoza, CSU Photography

When CSU President-in-waiting Joyce McConnell was asked to speak at a Friday, June 28, event at the Food Bank for Larimer County, she quickly accepted the invitation. That’s because, for her, food insecurity is personal.

“My childhood was filled with stories from my mother, who was part of an immigrant family of 12 children, about going hungry,” McConnell said to a gathering of community dignitaries at the northern Fort Collins facility. “There were stories about being evicted and begging for food. So, hunger is deeply personal to me.”

McConnell and outgoing CSU President Tony Frank were featured speakers at the event, which marked the end of the silent phase of the Feeding Our Future capital campaign to raise $9 million to complete the Food Bank’s new distribution center, located near the Northern Colorado Regional Airport. The campaign, co-chaired by Frank and community member Lisa Clay, already has brought in $8 million, and Clay hopes to raise the final $1 million by October. She announced $250,000 in matching funds for interested donors.

The event – his last public event as president before transitioning to full-time chancellor of the CSU System – was particularly poignant for Frank, who has volunteered for the Food Bank for more than a decade. His work helped establish a number of programs at CSU that have helped hundreds of students overcome food insecurity.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, but hunger still exists in Larimer County and it still exists on the CSU campus,” he said, noting that the Food Bank is one of his as well as his wife, Patti Helper’s, favorite charities. “It has been a privilege to be involved with this organization.”

Tony Frank and Joyce McConnell

Amy Pezzani, the CEO of the Food Bank for Larimer County, presents outgoing CSU President Tony Frank with an honor recognizing his service, and tours incoming President Joyce McConnell around the food bank.

Over the past six years, CSU has established Rams Against Hunger, which offers food-insecure students campus dining center cards that provide once-daily swipes for meals. More than 1,000 students have consumed more than 77,000 meals since the program’s inception in 2014.

Other campus programs include the Mobile Food Pantry, which sets up monthly on campus to offer free food – including fresh produce – to students and staff dealing with hunger. Each month, more than 850 people participate.

Finally, Pocket Pantries, which operate year-round at six campus locations, provide healthy snacks for students looking for a quick meal on the go. Four of the pantries are in the Lory Student Center, while one is at Canvas Stadium and another at the Counseling Services office at the CSU Health and Medical Center.

“I love these programs on our campus,” McConnell said. “No child should ever go hungry. No person should ever go hungry. Certainly, no CSU student should ever go hungry. A hungry person cannot focus on learning, so these programs are really important.”

Of course, CSU’s flagship program for fighting hunger – Cans Around the Oval – has been around nearly as long as the Food Bank itself, created by alumna Susan Johnson in 1987. (The Food Bank opened in 1984.) Cans Around the Oval, which raised $61,000 and more than 35,000 pounds of food in 2018, is the largest one-day provider of food and funds for the Food Bank.

“No child should ever go hungry. No person should ever go hungry. Certainly, no CSU student should ever go hungry.”
— Joyce McConnell, incoming CSU president

Clarissa Escobar, who will be a senior majoring in communications studies at CSU this fall, is a first-generation student from Colorado Springs who volunteers each fall to help make Cans Around the Oval a success while also helping out with the monthly Mobile Food Pantry.

“The Mobile Food Pantry is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “I volunteer because it gives me a chance to give back, but also give encouraging smiles to those trying to create a new life for themselves, just like my family did for me.”